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My Perspectives

…Of Nigerian Time And Football Age



Olakunle Mohammed

I was on a BRT Bus queue one morning waiting for the shuttle going from Ikeja to the Island when my ears caught snippets from a conversation down the line. The first voice was asking his friend or co-worker (I wouldn’t know as I wasn’t invited into the conversation) when he clocked in at work the previous day to which the other voice replied. I heard him say, “I got to work early, around 11am.”


Then, I did a mental calculation, if he clocked in at 11am, he would clock out at 4pm or 5pm, then spend another 3-4 hours to get home. In the end, he would have used fourteen hours outside his home (if he left his home around 7am), spending only 5-6 hours at work while 7-8 hours was dedicated to navigating traffic. Maybe, this analogy is flawed with obvious margin of error, but the scenario painted is how the Nigerian time operates, it keeps you locked down to battle obscene frivolities while time keeps ticking.


As we all know, time waits for no one: public university students who have been home for ten months due to ASUU strike can testify to it; unemployed graduates battling with depression and mental health issue due to their inability to be productive or have a source of income can attest to it and; citizens, pensioners and other deprived people stuck in the cogwheels of Nigeria’s bureaucratic process can assure you of it. But, Nigeria remains an obvious example of a country that wastes one’s life by letting your time waste away, for no just cause.


Nigerian time is often distorted with bad governance, decaying infrastructural facilities, bad governance, maladministration, zero policy direction and what I simply refer to as anyhow-ness. To make up for the lost time, we, the citizens and leaders have resorted to physical and psychological manipulation of our age, what the populace refers to as ‘Football Age.’ A succinct example is the recent election of one Sunday Asefon, a 45-year-old, as the president of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS).


As a country, we have defied time and age to create a new normal which I have summed up as the older the wine, the better it tastes,’ a notion held true by Nigeria’s political class, filled with gerontocrats suppressing their age, basking in past achievements and regurgitating old-time governance and political style. This is the only certified explanation for why Asefon will claim to be youthful at forty-five, be eligible to contest for NANS presidency and win elections.


In Nigeria, we have a bad precedence of sidelining time, we do not honour our promises to her, remember how National Development Plan 1962 shifted to 1970, 1975 and 1981 before it was transferred to Vision 2000 moved to 2010, fast-tracked to 2020 with no accountability of defunct plans and has been interchanged to Vision 2030 and Agenda 2050 but still lacking a cogent policy direction. For Age, we have defied it countless times, made a mockery of it in the sport and entertainment sectors and created a disillusionment of how being an elder gives one the natural right to lead within the political class.

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Like a child suffering from down-syndrome, Nigeria has become a big man with a child’s mind because we’re still stuck in our better yesterday, a time warp caused by the vicious cycle of regurgitating the ruling class. And, the younger generation’s tomorrow looks like unfertilised egg that has no hope of getting mated.


To address this time warp and football age issue, the first step is value reorientation of every Nigerian, as we have normalised many social ills that should not have made it into our social construct. Value reorientation starts from being good and model citizens, as displayed during the peaceful #EndSARS protests across the country.


Another way to ensure value reorientation is going out to vote, not promoting voters apathy (in one of the recent bye-elections for federal seat, INEC recorded less than four percent voters turnout) because our votes does not count, let us make it count by going out en-masse to vote, it will make it harder to rig or manipulate when there is massive turnout (take a queue from the Americans).


For the Nigeria of our dream to come to reality, we need to stop normalising corruption and maladministration, doing so hurts everyone because it deprives us of the dividends of democracy. For instance, Football age syndrome became an issue when we saw our leaders gaming the system, and the best way to make them pay for it is normalising our voting behaviour, let us desist from voting along party lines, rather vote for leaders that have a vision and plan to move the country forward, let us be our own version of saner clime.


Along the way, we need a reform of our civil service, this is the best way to weed out administrators that should have retired from service and replace them with able-bodied men with the right mindset and attitude to get the job done. Nigeria civil service has become a problem to the country’s governance and administration as it is filled with individuals that uphold the notion that ‘soldier go, soldier come, barrack no dey move,’ which makes them get away with unnecessary bureaucratic grandstanding, hence wasting everyone’s time. Even so, the moribund state of the bureaucratic system overshadows real change makers making them look like cogwheels too.


Meanwhile, we need reforms in education that can eradicate massive strikes and un-employability of Nigerian graduates. The reforms should include solutions that will address the incessant strike actions of ASUU, ASUP, NASU, COEASU, NUT and other educational bodies (not the playing for the gallery ones that has been in existence for a long time.) Also, government should normalise increased funding for educational programs that will put government-owned institutions in same pedestal with privately-owned, so that they can churn out employable graduates into the labour market.


And for the teeming youths, let us normalise demanding for better governance and strategically fighting for it, if need be, as we did with the peaceful #EndSARS protests, else, our generational leaders will silence us, even draw us back with talks of respecting our elders when what we should all be focused on is how we can make Nigeria great and let it stop wasting our collective time and lives.

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